Science Grants to Help Improve STEM Instruction

It is crucial that students today have a solid understanding of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The future of the US economy depends on having workers who can think critically and innovate in order to sustain technological growth and development. It seems clear that most jobs of the future will rely heavily, if not totally, on some aspect of STEM education. According to the U. S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 17%, while other occupations are growing at 9.8%.

Yet, the United States isn’t making gains in math and science as quickly as other countries. That’s where the push for strong STEM-based programs comes in. Curricula that focus on STEM are needed to help students see how they use science and math in everyday life, how technology is rapidly developing, and how engineering provides the basis for the homes we live in and the objects we use every day.

Teachers interested in creating innovative, 21st century applicable STEM curricula have an uphill battle. So many schools lack the necessary technology for students to check their emails, let alone be creating and mastering challenging scientific puzzles. Science labs haven’t been updated in decades, and math instruction is so focused on passing a test that it doesn’t provide for authentic applications.

So, what’s a teacher with a desire to mold the future scientists, technologist, engineers, and mathematicians to do? Well, the first step is to include more inquiry-based, hands-on, real word projects to engage and inspire your students to explore new career paths. Then you’ve got to get those projects off the ground. That’s where grants can come in handy! There’s money out there to help you build STEM-based projects and enhance your current curriculum. You just have to know where to look.

STEM-Related Grants

1.Toshiba American Foundation Grants

Toshiba offers grants to K-5 classrooms. These $1,000 grants aim to bring innovative, hands-on projects into classrooms across the country. Previous grant winners have used the money to find and propose fixes for architectural dilemmas in the school, make playground renovations, design wind turbines, raise chickens, and develop a school makerspace.

Toshiba offers larger grants for 6-12 classrooms. There are two categories of grants for middle school and high school teachers: less than $5,000 and $5,000 and more. Winners of these grants have used the money to fund science and math projects such as building robots, studying water pollution, attending conferences and professional development, adding solar energy to school’s energy system, and 3D printer prototyping and CAD design.

2. Save on Energy

Six teacher grants of $500 are awarded each year. To earn the grant, K-8 teachers submit a lesson plan for teaching students about energy and sustainability. The lesson plans have to be unique and not based on published curriculum. This grant prioritizes innovation. Previous winners have spent the award money on books and supplies to support the lessons outlined in the grant application.

3. Project Learning Tree

The Greenworks Grants are awards of up to $1,000 for environmental service learning projects. Past winners have used the award to green their schools or neighborhood in some way, including kicking off recycling program, studying water conservation, building and maintaining school gardens, and constructing outdoor classrooms.

4. Entertainment Software Association Foundation (ESAF)

The ESAF awards Education Challenge Grants to schools that advance the use of computer and video games in classrooms. It is important to the ESAF that applicants leverage interactive software and value technology education. The grants awarded are large—sometimes up to $40,000—and are meant to support programs, plans, and proposals to use existing computer and video games in schools.

5. Voya Unsung Heroes

This grant is not strictly a STEM-related grant, but 45% of the awards have gone to STEM-related proposals. Voya gives away at least one grant in each of the fifty states. The 100 finalists get a $2,000 grant. Out of those hundred finalists, three are selected for larger awards-- $25,000, $10,000 and $5,000 grants. The grants are given to projects that show innovation, creativity, and have a direct influence on student learning and outcomes. The money can be used to fund a project currently underway or to start a new project. The 2016 winners of the $25,000 award used the grant to improve existing science labs with kits, materials, supplies, and technology.

6. Earthwatch Institute

The Teach Earth program isn’t a grant, so much as an amazing experience for teachers to help them improve science-related instruction. Winners of this program work on field research with scientists around the world. Projects include those related to climate change, ecology, and wildlife. Teachers learn the science process through hands-on experiences with scientists, help solve problems, and return to the classroom with the knowledge of discovery. The projects last 7-14 days and take place all over the globe. The program even includes a mentor to help teachers plan how to transition their learning to their teaching and design a community action project for their students.

Each grant has a different deadline and requirements for application. Be sure to read the specifics carefully. In many cases, you’ll need to plan to apply almost a year out from receiving a grant. However, despite the hard work that goes into grant writing for your classroom, the possibility of winning the award and furthering your students’ STEM education is worth it!

Amanda Ronan is an Austin-based writer. After many years as a teacher, Amanda transitioned out of the classroom and into educational publishing. She wrote and edited English, language arts, reading, and social studies content for grades K-12. Since becoming a full-time writer, Amanda has worked with a diverse set of clients, ranging from functional medicine doctors to design schools to moving companies. She blogs, writes long-form articles, and pens YA and children's fiction. Her first YA series, My Brother is a Robot, is slated for release by Scobre Educational Press in September 2015.